CJ to rule on fate of APNU/AFC’s 2nd election petition today
Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George is expected to decide today, the fate of the second election petition filed by the Opposition APNU/AFC seeking to vitiate the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The petition is being challenged by Attorney General Anil Nandlall with the support of People’s Progressive Party/Civic General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo, who are asking the High Court to strike it out.
In the November 10, 2020 application, Nandlall urged the court to dismiss the second election petition filed by the coalition on the grounds that it was served in breach of the requirements under Section 2 of the National Assembly Validity of Elections Act.
At today’s ruling, Justice George is expected to hand down her decision on the preliminary arguments relating to the defective service of the petition and whether former President and Leader of the APNU, David Granger, is a necessary party in the proceedings.
Lawyers for petitioners Monica Thomas and Brennan Nurse during the December 1, 2020 hearing had asked the court to overlook the deficiencies in the service of the petition on Granger, who is the second respondent and Head of the APNU/AFC List of Candidates, hence, spare their petition from being tossed out.
The former President was served on September 25, 2020, which is 10 days after the petition was filed on September 15.
As such, Trinidadian Senior Counsel John Jeremie, representing the petitioners, urged the Chief Justice to disregard the date on the acknowledgement of service and focus on the date on the affidavit.
However, when questioned by Justice George who made the error, the lawyer could not say.
In fact, during a case management hearing in October 2020, the Chief Justice had pointed out that service of the petition on the second named respondent in the matters – APNU/AFC’s leader David Granger – was “out of time”.
She had noted that according to the rules, the petition must be served within five days of filing on the respondents, but the court records show that the petitions were served until September 25.
Nevertheless, during the December hearing, AG Nandlall had lambasted the petitioners’ lawyers in court for proving unable to explain the mix up regarding the date of service and went on to call on the court to dismiss the petition.
Meanwhile, Granger’s legal team had made efforts to extricate him from the case by using Section 27 of the Validity of Elections Act and gave notice that he would not be contesting the petition.
But Nandlall had argued that by using this Act, Granger himself has acknowledged that he is a properly named party in the case.
Section 27 (2) of the Validity of Elections Act states “A respondent who has given the prescribed notice that he does not intend to oppose the petition or for whom any person has been substituted shall not be allowed to appear or act as a party against the petition in any proceedings thereon.”
“A respondent, your honour, must mean a properly named respondent. So, by filing that notice to say that he is not opposing that petition, Mr Granger has implicitly or rather, expressly accepted that he is a properly named respondent. That is what the Section gives him the power to do… Mr Granger cannot contend that he is not a proper party in the petition and then use a mechanism in the Act that is directed to proper respondents. He cannot have it both ways, your honour,” Nandlall had contended in court.
Only Friday, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon said during a press conference that the APNU/AFC is anticipating a favourable ruling.
“We do expect a favourable ruling but it is the court that will make that determination and so we don’t want to prejudge what the judge is going to say. But once there is a favourable ruling, we look forward to the substantive hearing of the petitions before the court. So, what we expect is some timelines will thereafter be set for the substantive trial. If, in fact, there is an adverse ruling on one of the petitions, I believe if that is so then we have the right to appeal,” he contended.
Harmon went on to say that the coalition is looking forward to the substantive cases being heard by the court so that the contentions in their petitions can not only become a record of the court, but also known to the international community.